La. Theriot: Auditors Now Have Access to La. Citizens’ Records

June 29, 2007

Louisiana’s legislative auditor said officials who run the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. are giving investigators access they need to inspect the state-backed company’s records.

Steve Theriot had earlier said that the records might have been altered or destroyed, and his auditors were being stonewalled by officials who refused to let employees discuss the matter.

On Tuesday, June 26 Theriot said the matter has been resolved.

“Everything seems to be going fine,” Theriot told the House Insurance Committee during a briefing on problems his staff encountered at the offices of Citizens and the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana, which runs Citizens. “…we have been given unfettered access.”

Theriot repeated concerns that some records had been altered, but said he will not be able to determine that until his staff examines the documents further.

The Senate Insurance Committee on Monday gave Sen. James David Cain, R-Dry Creek, its chairman, authority to issue subpoenas to compel testimony and production of records if auditors are stymied again. Without the cooperation, Theriot said, he will have to stop his audits of the association and Citizens, the state’s property insurer of last resort.

Association lawyer A.J. Herbert III, who has been on board just a few months, said the organization is private because it does not receive state money and is not subject to state audit laws.

However, he told the House panel that the association has given Theriot’s staff access to records. Theriot said the agency is public because it falls under the oversight of the Department of Insurance, a state agency. An attorney general’s opinion on the question is pending.

“It was never intended to deny unfettered access,” Herbert said. “We just want organized unfettered access.”

Theriot has issued two reports on Citizens and publicly complained that the records of Citizens were in such disarray that his personnel could not completely audit its books.

He also said a software program did not work and records of claims paid could not be retrieved. The state last year sold $1 billion in bonds to keep the insurer solvent from a flood of claims after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Theriot said that Citizens has not balanced its books in the past two years.

John Wortman, the chief executive officer of Citizens, recently hired by the Citizens board, promised that things will continue to improve.

“The legislative auditor should have free access to all data,” he said. He said he intends to meet with the auditors twice a week to make sure they are not having problems.

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